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First-Time Home Buyer’s Checklist

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a recent prospective buyer, you probably have more questions than those who have gone through the home-buying process before. What home and neighborhood should you search for? Are you ready to become homeowners? What can you afford? What should you be aware of? Based on the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, 45% of all home buyers are making their first purchase.

It has also been reported that many Generation Zers want to leave pricey, crowded cities for a quieter, less expensive existence in the Midwest or mountains. While Gen Z remains the majority renter generation, they have increased their proportion to 74% in the last five years, adding 4.5 million renters more than any other age group. While 52% of Millennials are homeowners, they were the largest generation in the country to go from renter-majority to owner-majority by 2022.

During open houses, it’s common for agents to provide a sample home-buying checklist and offer to send an electronic copy to potential buyers, an effective way to swap contact details. We have developed our home-buying checklist to help with this process because we know there are many important concerns to go over before committing to a home! 

A first-time home-buying checklist should cover all the essential home-purchasing aspects. Here’s a comprehensive list:

Make Sure You Are Ready

miniature house with a green checkmark next to it

unchecked You should see yourself living in the same town for the next 5-10 years.

unchecked You’re physically and financially ready for the extra work that comes with homeownership. 

unchecked You have a stable job and stable forms of income.

unchecked Familiarize yourself with the steps involved in the home-buying process, from making an offer to closing the deal.

Create a ‘Dream Home’ Wishlist

unchecked Make a list of your must-have features and preferences for the home, such as size, layout, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, yard space, and specific amenities.

unchecked Consider whether you prefer a new construction or an existing home with character.

Get Your Team Together 

unchecked Work with a qualified real estate agent who can guide you through the process and negotiate on your behalf.

unchecked Work with family and friends who have been through the buying process before. 

Check Your Financial Readiness

sacrifices to buy their home graphic
Image from Zillow 

Most home buyers will require a loan to purchase a new property, which necessitates contacting a lender. When it comes to buying a home, nothing is worse than having your mortgage application denied. Checking your finances before starting house hunting is a vital first step.

unchecked Assess your financial situation, including savings, income, retirement, debts, and credit score.

unchecked Determine your budget and how much you can afford for a down payment, monthly mortgage payments, closing costs, and ongoing expenses.

unchecked Use a mortgage calculator to understand: 

  • What is your housing price range 
  • What the loan terms and interest rates will be 
  • Down payment 
  • What the monthly mortgage payments will be 
  • Estimated property taxes 

unchecked Get pre-approved for a mortgage to understand your borrowing capacity.

unchecked You can provide the last 2 years’ W2s or tax returns.

unchecked You can provide 1099s (if applicable). 

unchecked Understand your debt-to-income ratio. 

unchecked Save for a down payment: A 20% down payment is ideal to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), but there are programs available for lower down payments.

unchecked Explore available financial assistance programs, grants, and incentives for first-time homebuyers, such as FHA loans, VA loans, or down payment assistance programs.

unchecked Research tax credits or deductions for homebuyers in your area.

Find a Lender 

When it comes to buying their dream home, most individuals take their time looking for a house. The average home-buying procedure in the United States takes approximately four months.

During the buying process, you’ll discover what is and isn’t important to you in a new house within your price range, which communities you prefer, and what your deal-breakers are. Finding a lender that you are comfortable with before you start looking for your dream home can save you a headache down the road. 

House Hunting Research 

unchecked Make a list of your needs and wants.

unchecked Research different neighborhoods based on factors like safety, amenities, schools, commute times, and property values (whatever is most important to you).

unchecked Visit the neighborhoods during different times of the day to get a feel for the area.

unchecked See what types of houses are in your budget. 

unchecked Look online and attend open houses to get a feel for the market.

unchecked Once you’ve found a few homes you like, schedule private showings. Narrow down your choice from there until you find the perfect one. 

Legal & Contractual Considerations

There are many legal jargon and documents to understand before closing on a home purchase. 24% of buyers said they didn’t understand everything they signed when buying their home.. Yikes! Don’t ever sign any legal documents without understanding everything. 

unchecked Understand the legal aspects of buying a home, including contracts, contingencies, and disclosures.

Home Inspection & Appraisal

home inspection typed on paper with a miniature house above clipboard

While the process of finding your dream house might be exciting, it is critical to fully understand the property’s condition before hurrying into a purchase. One of the best decisions you can make as a homebuyer is to make your offer contingent on a professional house inspection.

Learn more about The Importance of Making Your Offer Contingent on a Home Inspection.

unchecked Hire a reputable home inspector to thoroughly assess the condition of the property for any issues or potential repairs. Wall to Wall Home Inspection is here to help! Contact us today. 

unchecked Schedule a home appraisal to determine the fair market value of the property.

Making an Offer

unchecked Decide what you want to commit to and make an offer. If you are working with a real estate agent, your agent will help you submit a competitive offer.

unchecked Be prepared to negotiate the price, closing costs, and repairs.

Closing the Deal

2 people holding up keys in front of for sale sign

unchecked If you haven’t done so already, schedule a home inspection. This will identify any major repairs and the appraisal will determine the home’s value.

unchecked You’ll need homeowner’s insurance to close on the house.

unchecked Prepare for the closing process by reviewing all closing documents, including the settlement statement, loan documents, and title insurance.

unchecked Plan for the costs associated with closing, such as closing costs, escrow fees, and prepaid expenses.

unchecked This is the final step in the buying process, where you’ll sign the paperwork and become the official homeowner!

Moving Plans

Congratulations on closing on your first home! That is an amazing accomplishment and you should be proud. Now let’s plan to move your current items into your new home. 

unchecked Develop a moving plan and timeline for packing, hiring movers, transferring utilities, and updating your address.

unchecked Budget for moving expenses, including packing materials, truck rental, and storage if needed.

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